It’s often said that losing weight (or just getting healthier) is as much about exercise as it is your diet.
And while you probably already know that a grilled chicken breast and a salad is better for you than a double cheeseburger with fries, creating healthy (and delicious) meals isn’t easy if that hasn’t been your normal diet. In truth, most people probably couldn’t make it from Monday to Wednesday with their current repertoire of healthy recipes let alone a week, a month or even a year. (It would help if they lived on Mercury, which has only 88 days in the year; the weather there is even worse than in Michigan.)
Here on Earth, many people just go online and search for recipes, and I’d recommend that if you’re searching for one particular recipe, you use something you already have in your fridge or pantry.
But doing ALL of your recipe research online takes a lot of time, and printing those recipes (especially if you really want those colorful pictures) page by page can be just as expensive as purchasing an actual cookbook.
And while both diet and exercise are important, you’ll get a much better cardio workout at the gym than from running from bookstore to bookstore to find cookbooks with great diet recipes.
Here’s where I can help.
There used to be a time when someone said he was going on “a diet” and it meant he was trying to lose weight. Today, diets mean many things to many people, not all of which directly relate to losing weight. Many, in fact, are more to do with health issues or “lifestyle” choices than with losing weight specifically.
Meat-free, low carb, low sodium, high protein, low fat, gluten-free, sugar-free and lactose-free are just some of the many subcategories of diet cookbook topics to choose from.
And while many of these cookbooks can introduce you to healthier recipes, which can help you to lose weight (if that is your goal), most, in my opinion, aren’t broad enough to be appealing to the average person who’d just like to be healthier–and perhaps, lose a little around the middle.
So I spent some time recently getting serious about my own diet and boning up on what’s out there on the shelves.
Here’s what I found that you might like:
Now before I begin, let me tell you that as a chef, I look for a cookbook with recipes that don’t skimp on flavor. At the end of the day, all flavor doesn’t come from things that are fatty, full of carbs or bad for you. In fact, most flavors are indeed good for you. So I look for recipes I know, from adding up the ingredients and proportions of each, will turn out to be flavorful.
Another thing I look for are recipes that are easily understood and that don’t require sophisticated equipment or time-consuming preparation.
Finally, I don’t like weird combinations just for the sake of being different. If I want weird, I know plenty of places where I can find it.
The world if full of weird. I see and hear it everywhere.
I just don’t want to eat it.
Ok, now you know where I stand on diet cookbooks, so here are a few of my reviews.
Weight Watchers NEW Complete Cookbook
Over 500 easy-to-follow recipes. Not too “gourmet” but dishes you and your family will enjoy. Many color pictures (60) with complete nutritional facts and analysis for each recipe. You’ll also like that it gives you multiple substitutions for various ingredients you can use to suit your tastes or use up what you have in the fridge. If you are in Weight Watchers or thinking of joining, this would pretty much be your textbook.
American Heart Association Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Cookbook
Over 800 thousand sold and in its second edition, this classic diet cookbook will give you lots of inspiration. From crab spring rolls to healthy entrees and luscious desserts, there are over 400 pages of easy-to-make recipes with great photography and many helpful tips. Definitely a resource well worth a shade over $20 in its spiral bound edition. You can find it even cheaper in paperback on Amazon.
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2012 or 2013 Editions
(Hardcover is 432 pages)
From the nation’s leading epicurean brand, Cooking Light’s popular magazine recipes from the past year are brought together in this year-end publication to showcase what good food AND nutrition are all about. This book is a definite MUST if you love the magazines but don’t want to keep stacks of old issues lying about. Even better, rather than buying the cookbook itself, you can download it onto your Kindle! This book probably has the best photography of any diet book going. In my opinion, you’ll want to buy this book every year.
The Paleo Diet Cookbook
Perhaps THE most talked about diet plan/cookbook of the past few years comes from Dr. Loren Cordain. It is (in my opinion) a more clinical approach to dieting, and I found the recipes less inspired/exciting. The principles of the diet are great but the cookbook less so. Based on other reviews (besides mine), it’s a love it or hate it book.
Other VERY interesting and/or trendy diet cookbooks that really captured my culinary imagination and have some great recipes include:
The SparkPeople Cookbook
Meg Galvin and SparkRecipes editor Stepfanie Romine created this diet cookbook based on the same easy, real-world principles as in the SparkPeople diet program. There are more than 160 satisfying and stress-free recipes. I liked most of the recipes and own this book.
The Eat Clean Diet
Tosca Reno (trendy health and fitness expert) has some great healthy recipes and tips on eating clean in difficult situations, timesaving one-dish meals for busy moms and great recipes for on-the-go folks. It’s more of a “niche” diet book.
The Volumetrics Eating Plan
Sensible and simple are the two KEY words to describe this cookbook by Dr. Barbara Rolls, one of America’s leading authorities on weight management. It doesn’t lecture or overload you with “rules,” just great, healthy recipes. It doesn’t include a lot of recipes, however (only 125). But what I see, I like. I think you will too.
Eat More, Weigh Less
Dr. Dean Ornish definitely has the attention of people who are afraid that dieting = starving. Not so. While some diets rely on small portion sizes to reduce calories, Dr. Ornish’s program takes a new approach: abundance rather than deprivation. Better yet, he’s enlisted some of the country’s most celebrated chefs and 250 gourmet recipes to prove it!
I hope these simple reviews help you in your search for the one or two books that inspire you to achieve your health goals.
Good luck and good health in 2013!